Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Walnut Tree

I can pen point the exact moments in my life when I learned some of life's harsh lessons.

You know, those moments when the sting of life's injustices penetrates the innocence of your youth and steals away a little piece of your naive perspective.

That is what occurred one fall day with The Walnut Tree.

I was in elementary school and was still not aware of socioeconomic status, tax brackets, welfare, medical bills, nor the measures some must take to make ends meet. I by no means came from a wealthy family, but I never worried about provisions and my heart was always content. I never thought about the savage inequalities in this world or the means a desperate mother would go to in order to provide for her family - at least not until Nicole knocked on my door one fall morning.

Nicole was in my class since kindergarten and although we played at recess and MASHed together at lunch, we never talked about her family or home life. Nicole was a painfully shy kid. Tough as nails. Competitive as all get out. And mean as grits. But she always wore a zip up jacket and ALWAYS had her hand stuffed in her pockets or gloves in the winter. Always. I thought this was to add to her Tough Girl image. I wish that were true.

I just assumed her weekends were filled with events like mine. Filled with family, activities, sports, church, and love. One Saturday I found how differently we lived, but how loved we both were.

Someone knocked on our door before I was even dressed. I did not bother to pull myself from the Thundercats and Cream of Wheat until mom came back into the room. I then asked who it was.

Someone wanting to pick walnuts.

Whatever....the Thundercats call had just been given and I could not be bothered with the mundane details of walnuts -- who in the world would want to PICK THOSE THINGS up? They stained your hands HORRIBLY. A few hours later I was still immersed in TV when the door bell rang. I drug myself to the door and there stood Nicole. Nicole from school? Hey girlfriend...what is up? Come in it is FREEZING out there. Where is your mom?

She would not even look at me. She just stated in a mumbled voice, "Pickin walnuts. Can I use your bathroom?"

She came in and left the house without a word. It was like we were strangers. As I peered through the window my dad explained to me that walnuts were bringing 25 cents a pound. And that her family had fallen on hard times. She had a special needs younger brother with medical bills, a laid off father, and three other siblings. They NEEDED this money.

Monday morning Nicole came in with her zipped up jacket and hands stuffed in her pockets. We never mentioned it. I never asked why her hands were stained. I never talked about it. We pretended like it never happened.

But I never forgot.


CindyDianne said...

That is a poignant post.

Lo said...

sigh. this is why i donate, contribute, help, listen, tell.

Treasia said...

What a touching story.

Jenn said...

Great story.

By the way - we soooo played Battle of the Sexes last night with some friends and one of the questions was "What does M*A*S*H stand for in the game young girls used to play? Oh would have been so proud at how fast I shouted out the answer, lol!!

Linda said...

Do you know where she is now?

Dreams of a Country Girl said...


I do. I actually spoke with her about a year ago. She owns her own salon. And Nicole is NOT her real name.


Linda said...

Well then, life is treating her well! I'm glad to know that things din't go "down hill" for her.

Marchelle said...

i remember those school days when we were all young enough not to care or even know to care about status. we were all just friends.

except for with boys because they obviously had cooties.

Sarah said...

It's funny how God puts people in our lives to show us & teach us about life. Sometimes the lessons aren't learned until later but, they're not accidents, but timed lessons.

I know that I have thought back to things from my childhood & realized that things had happened or turned out as they did, served to help me through life.

The Kelso-Winter Family said...

- can you imagine if YOU remember that incident how much she carries with her everyday. Thank God "Nicole" is ok these days - we never know what others may be going through...